Badlands was the first National Park we stopped at in the RV on the road in 2015. We forget how we originally heard about this place, but it's completely magical. Tucked away in South Dakota, this rugged place is guided (for the most part) by roads, taking you through quickly changing landscapes.
Things to be careful of when visiting: rattlesnakes, flash floods and steep hikes. We started our Badlands adventure on the Notch Trail that started out easy, then up the wooden stairs it got decently high in elevation ending with a beautiful scenic overlook of South Dakota from above. Continuing on, that's when the landscapes change different colors. We climbed the mounds and got really inspired by the land. Up before sunrise, we saw some interesting wildlife and the light change over the traditional badlands.
What kind of American roadtrip would this be without stopping at Mount Rushmore? Viewing the president’s faces straight on as we always saw them in photos was pretty impressive, but the new selfie crowds of 2015 took away from the experience. We walked around to the sides of Mount Rushmore and the profile perspective was even more interesting and revealed the massive size in comparison to the surrounding trees.
Exploring more throughout Black Hills, we found out about another carving in the mountains that is still in progress.
Crazy Horse is the world's largest sculpture inside Black Hills Forrest, very close to Mount Rushmore. Korczak Ziolkowski began carving the mountain by himself in 1948, then had help from his family as it grew. He built a school on their land for his children and now the memorial also hosts The Indian University of North America. The project is still non-profit, as requested by the family to remain that way because the Lakotas consider the land to be very sacred.
Driving in from Crazy Horse, Devils Tower rapidly revealed itself from the highway miles away, getting more confusing the closer we got. When we got to the base at sunset, we had to tilt our heads back to view this volcanic plug jolted 1,267' up in the sky.
We pulled into the campground, made our first Greetings campfire and sat under a billion visible stars. When we woke up the next morning, the camp host taught us the volcanic plug used to be under water and in several years, it will erode away. Devils Tower is very sacred to the American Indians, natives of the Black Hills land. Hiking around the base, we found prayer cloths tied to trees from those who still come to worship and carry on traditions from many generations ago. Devils Tower was the first US National Monument, declared by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. Leaving out the apostrophe in Devils was a typo.